Why white people don't understand Indians

From the book Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn:

Dave Bald Eagle plays Dan in the movie Neither Wolf nor Dog
This is something I've thought about for a long time. It's about white people and why they don't understand us. I think I know why.
I think it's because the most important thing for white people is freedom. The most important thing for Indian people is honor. 
This is why white people have listened to the black people more than to us Indians, the black people want freedom too, just like white people. And since the white people took freedom from the black people, the whites feel guilty about the blacks.

But the Indian has always been free. We are free today. We have always been freer than the white man, even when he first came here. When you came to our shore your people wore clothes made out of chains. Our people wore nothing at all. Yet you tried to bring us freedom.

The white world puts all the power at the top. When someone gets to the top, they have the power to take your freedom. When your people first came to our land they were trying to get away from those people at the top. But they still thought the same, and soon there were new people at the top in the new country. It is just the way you were thaught to think.
In your churches there is someone at the top. In your schools, too. In your goverment. In your business. There is always someone at the top and that person has the right to say whether you are good or bad. They own you.
No wonder Americans always worry about freedom. You have so damn little of it. If you don't protect it, someone will take it away from you. You have to guard it every second, like a dog guards a bone.

When you came among us, you couldn't understand our way. You wanted to find someone at the top. You wanted to find the fences that bound us in - how far our land went, how far our goverment went. Your world was made of cages and you thought ours was too. Even though you hated your cages you believed in them. They defined your world and you needed them to define ours.
Our old people noticed this from the beginning. They said that the white man lived in a world of cages, and that if we didn't look out, they would make us live in a world of cages too.

So we started noticing. Everything looked like cages. Your clothes fit like cages. Your houses looked like cages. You put fences around your yards so they looked like cages. Everything was a cage. You turned the land into cages. Little squares.
Then after you had all these cages you made a goverment to protect these cages. And that goverment was all cages. All laws about what you couldn't do. The only freedom you had was inside your own cage. Then you wondered why you weren't happy and didn't feel free. You made all the cages, then you wondered why you didn't feel free.

We Indians never thought that way. Everyone was free. We didn't make cages of laws or land. We believed in honor. To us the white man looked like a blind man walking. He knew he was on the wrong path when he bumped into the edge of one of the cages. Our guide was inside, not outside. It was honor. It was more important for us to know what was right than to know what was wrong.

We looked at the animals and saw what was right. We saw how the deer would trick the more powerful animals and how the bear would make her children strong by running them without mercy.
We saw how the buffalo would stand and watch  until it understood. We saw how every animal had wisdom and we tried to learn that wisdom. We would look to them to see how they got along and how they raised their young. Then we would copy them. We did not look for what was wrong. Instead we always reached for what was right.

It was this search that kept us on a good path, not rules and fences. We wanted honor for ourselves and our families. We wanted others to say, 'He is a good man. He is brave as the bear' or 'as clean as the fox'. We had freedom so we did not seek it. We sought honor, and honor was duty. The man who sought freedom was just running from duty, so he was weak.
The only time freedom is important is when others are trying to put you in chains. We had no chains so we needed no freedom.

The world your people brought saw everything in terms of freedom. We have always had our freedom so you had nothing of value to give us. All you could do is take it away and give it back to us in form of cages. That is what you did when you took our land and tried to give it back to us in allotments. You took all our Indian land and gave it back to us in squares and said, 'You now have the freedom to be farmers and ranchers'. We didn't want to be farmers and ranchers. We had been farmers when we had to. But we didn't want to be told to be farmers.
When we didn't farm you got angry and couldn't understand. 'We have given you the freedom to have your own land and be farmers', you said. 'And you aren't doing anything'. To us, all you had done is given us our own cage.

If you take an animal from the woods or the prairie and give him a house inside a fence, is that giving him freedom? No. All it is doing is taking away his honor, because if he accepts it, he is no longer free.
Yet that is what you did to us. 'Either accept this cage or be killed' is what you told us. You took our honor and gave us your freedom. And even you know that is no freedom at all. It is just the freedom to live inside your own locked cage.

White people are jealous of us. If it hadn't been for your religion you would have lived just like us from the first minute you got to this land. You knew we were right. You started wearing our clothes. You started eating our food. You learned how to hunt like us. When you fought the English you even fought like us.
You came to this country because you really wanted to be like us. But when you got here you got scared and tried to build the same cages you had run away from. If you had listened to us instead of trying to convert us and kill us, what a country this would be.

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